I noticed that Kumar Sangakkara scored eight centuries in the space of 11 first-class innings during 2017. Was this a record? asked Michael Crump from England
That purple patch by Kumar Sangakkara came during his remarkable farewell season with Surrey in 2017. In successive first-class innings he scored 136 against Lancashire, 105 against Warwickshire, 114 and 120 against Middlesex, 200 and 84 against Essex then 4 and 26 in the return game, and 180 not out and 164 in separate matches against Yorkshire. Sangakkara signed off from his final season with 1491 runs at an average of 106.50.
There have actually been four previous sequences of eight hundreds in 11 innings in first-class cricket. The first to do it was the prolific Australian opener Bill Ponsford, spread over the 1926-27 and 1927-28 seasons Down Under. His sequence, mostly for Victoria, went: 151 (v Queensland), 352 (v New South Wales), 108 and 84 (v South Australia), 12 and 116 (v Queensland), 131 and 7 (Australian XI v The Rest), 133 (v South Australia in 1927-28), 437 (v Queensland) and 202 (v NSW). Ponsford scored 214 (and 54) against South Australia in the match before this run started, and in the one after it ended hit 336 (also against South Australia), making ten centuries in 15 innings in all.
The last to do it before Sangakkara was another sublime left-hander, Brian Lara, in 1994. The sequence began with his Test-record 375 for West Indies against England in Antigua, and continued when he joined Warwickshire: 147 (v Glamorgan), 106 and 120 not out (v Leicestershire), 136 (v Somerset), 26 and 140 (v Middlesex), the first-class record 501 not out (v Durham), 19 and 31 (v Kent), and 197 (v Northamptonshire).
Regular readers of this column will hardly be surprised to learn that the other man to manage eight hundreds in 11 innings was Don Bradman - and indeed he did it twice! Towards the end of the 1938 England tour he scored 144 against Nottinghamshire, 103 and 16 in the fourth Test against England, 202 v Somerset, 17 against Glamorgan, and 67 v Kent. Once at home in Australia he started the 1938-39 season with 118 for his own side against KE Rigg's XI, 143 for South Australia v New South Wales, 225 v Queensland, 107 v Victoria, 186 v Queensland, and 135 not out v NSW. That made it eight centuries in 11 innings, including six in the last six to equal CB Fry's record (later also matched by the South African Mike Procter). This period was the most productive of even the Don's spectacular career: he had one sequence in which he scored 20 hundreds in the space of 33 first-class innings, which included the eight in 11 mentioned here.
And Bradman did it again, at the age of 39: in 1947-48 he made 185 (in Brisbane), 13 (Sydney), 132 and 127 not out (Melbourne), 201 (Adelaide) and 57 retired hurt (Melbourne) in Australia's Tests against India, and added 115 for the Australian XI en route for England against Western Australia in Perth. Once in England, he started the 1948 "nvincibles tour with 107 against Worcestershire, 81 v Leicestershire, 146 v Surrey, and 187 against Essex in the famous match at Southend in which the Aussies piled up 721 runs on the first day.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul recently scored a century for Guyana which took him 424 balls - is this the slowest first-class hundred? asked Davo Kissoondari from Guyana
Tagenarine Chanderpaul certainly proved himself a chip off the old Shivnarine block with his century for Guyana against the Windward Islands in Providence last week. According to the Guyana Times, "His century came off 424 balls, batting for 429 minutes, hitting seven fours, nine twos and 46 singles."
Chanderpaul junior's effort equalled the slowest hundred by balls shown on the Association of Cricket Statisticians' website, by Sanjay Bangar for Railways against Uttar Pradesh in Delhi in 1995-96. The number of balls faced - especially for part of an innings - are generally not known for most earlier matches. But the Melbourne cricket historian Charles Davis, who has devoted himself to studying old Test scorebooks, has discovered several hundreds that needed more than 424 balls. The longest, at 535, is Colin Cowdrey's for England against West Indies at Edgbaston in 1957. Nazar Mohammad's hundred for Pakistan against India in Lucknow in 1952-53 took around 520 deliveries.
The longest by time was by Nazar Mohammad's son Mudassar Nazar, for Pakistan against England in Lahore in 1977-78. Mudassar took 557 minutes (419 balls) to reach three figures, while S Ramesh's 556-minute century for Tamil Nadu against Kerala in Chennai in 2001-02 came up from a sprightly 339 deliveries.
How many people have taken two hat-tricks in Tests? asked Geoffrey Keen from England
Four bowlers have taken two Test hat-tricks. One of them, the Australian legspinner Jimmy Matthews, actually did it in the same game - against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1912. Oddly, Matthews didn't take any other wickets in the game. Wasim Akram almost matched Matthews's feat, taking hat-tricks in successive Tests against Sri Lanka in 1998-99, in Lahore and in Dhaka.
Stuart Broad has also taken two, against India at Trent Bridge in 2011 and against Sri Lanka at Headingley in 2014, while the tall Australian offspinner Hugh Trumble took two hat-tricks against England at the MCG, one in 1901-02 and another in 1903-04.
Which Test player called his autobiography Panther's Paces? asked Prakash Joshi from India
This is the title of a long-awaited tome from Chandu Borde, the fine Indian batsman of the 1950s and '60s. He was only the third Indian - after Polly Umrigar and Vijay Manjrekar - to win 50 caps, and finished with 3061 runs in 55 Tests, with five centuries. He captained, in the absence of the injured Nawab of Pataudi, against Australia in Adelaide in 1967-68. His book, co-written with Mohan Sinha, is a neatly produced hardback, published last year by Anubandh Prakashan in Pune. I imagine you should be able to obtain one from them if you would like a copy.
India won the series in Australia without much input from the spinners. But have they ever won a Test without a spinner taking a single wicket? asked Jamie Henderson from Australia
India have only ever won one Test without a spinner taking a wicket at all - and it was quite a recent one. In Johannesburg last January, they beat South Africa by 63 runs, with the wickets being shared between Jasprit Bumrah (seven), Mohammed Shami (six), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (four) and Ishant Sharma (three).
There have been two Indian victories which included a solitary wicket for a spinner: over Sri Lanka in Galle in August 2001, when Harbhajan Singh made a solitary strike, and at Trent Bridge last summer, when R Ashwin took one England wicket and the seamers (Bumrah, Shami, Ishant and Hardik Pandya) shared the other 19.